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The Basics: GRE or GMAT

February 15, 2019

It’s getting closer to the end of the school year… okay it’s February. But, you have probably already started to think about what you are going to do after graduation. Or hopefully you have. Many students will graduate and begin their careers and many will continue their education into graduate school. Most graduate schools will require you to take the GRE and if you apply to a business masters program you may need to take the GMAT. Idaho State University’s College of Business will accept either exam, which may leave you with the important decision… which one should you take? And, how can you prepare?

GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations and the GMAT is the Graduate Management Admissions Test. Both tests employ a Computer Adaptive Test or CAT,  meaning that the questions evolve to your ability. For example, the first question might be medium difficulty and depending on if you answer correctly or not will prompt the computer to choose the next questions so if you answer it wrong, your next question will be easier and if you answer it right, your next question will be harder. This allows the test to more accurately show your abilities and ways of thinking by the end.

The GRE consists of three parts: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Verbal Reasoning measures how well you do when looking at materials and coming to conclusions based on that information. Quantitative Reasoning measures essentially your mathematical skills and finally, Analytical Writing measures how well you can express complicated ideas and information in written form, using examples and evidence to back it up. The GMAT measures essentially the same though it has four sections as opposed to three and only needs to be taken for admission into a business graduate program. The sole reason for taking these tests is to get into graduate school.

“It's a major step in applying to graduate school,” says Kristine McCarty, the Director of Graduate Studies at the ISU College of Business. The whole point of taking the GRE/GMAT is to get into graduate school and having a graduate degree can increase everything including your skills, your knowledge, and your monetary worth. McCarty also notes that, “if a student isn't interested in graduate school right now, the scores are good for five years. It may be worthwhile for students to take it as a senior in college...That way, if they decide to come back for a graduate degree a few years later, they'll already have the exam done!” McCarty pointed out that taking this approach ensures that the student is already accustomed to taking tests and studying, as opposed to waiting several years after graduating and being in the workforce.  

Having a good GRE/GMAT score can also makeup for weak spots in your application such as sub-par letters of recommendation or a not-so-great GPA. If you have a strong GRE score, it can help programs maybe overlook those weaker parts of your application and allow you into the program of your choice. It can also just in general, help round out your application. These scores can also make it easier to get scholarships and assistantships in your chosen field because it again, can help you stand out among other applicants.

But what does one do for these tests? How can you prepare for them? Of course you can and you should. Gail Hunt, an administrative assistant for graduate programs at the ISU College of Business, says that, “...just like any of the other standardized test there are a lot of things that you have not used in a long time and so if you refresh your memory, you will do a lot better.”

There are many online resources, Hunt also recommends taking a practice GRE or GMAT test to help you get an idea of where you’re at and how much studying you’ll need to do. A tip that student Binayak K.C. offered is to, “Download the GMAT/GRE app on your phone and aim to work with at least 10-15 questions per day.” This allows for you to practice on the go and also allows for you to practice when you might only have a few minutes.

Not sure where to start? You’re in luck. On March 1, the College of Business will be hosting a free GRE and GMAT class and dinner. It will be live on the Pocatello Campus in the Eli Oboler Library in B 3A from 3-5 PM. It will also be broadcast to the following locations:

Meridian, at the Health Science Center, Room 686.

Idaho Falls, at the CHE Building in room 314.

Twin Falls, at the Hepworth Building in room 131.


To attend, you must email cobgrad@isu.edu and please specify at which CAMPUS you will be attending this event.